Happy Friday! Coronavirus chaos continues: AstraZeneca vaccinations in Bulgaria were temporarily suspended a day after authorities assured the public that they were safe. Due to the suspension, authorities also temporarily shut down the electronic register for signing up for vaccinations - an initiative that was not going smoothly anyway. Meanwhile, Blagoevgrad loosened restrictions 24 hours after tightening them - announcing today that malls and gyms can open their doors but older students will still be home learning in coming weeks.
Amid the mayhem, the rate of new infections and hospitalizations is rising. Read more about the pandemic in Bulgaria in this week's overview.
Exports down by 6.4% in 2020
According to preliminary data, the value of goods exported in 2020 was 54.7 billion levs (or 28 bn euro), down 6.4% compared to 2019. The decline is visible in both EU and non-EU markets, and is largely due to the collapse in oil prices and weaker demand for fuels, which reduced sales of Bulgarian fuels abroad by 54%, down to 2.55 billion levs last year. On the positive side, sales of refined and unrefined copper are rising, increasing by 636 million levs to a total of 4.8 billion in 2020. Imports also decreased - by 8.9% for the year to a total of 60.1 billion levs (or 30.7 bn euro).
Sofia airport concessionaire gets Brussels go-ahead
The European Commission approved the postponement of concession fees for Sofia airport in the coming decade. Paris-based investment fund Meridiam, the leading member of the SOF Connect consortium which was awarded the concession to run the airport, sought to postpone having to pay concession fees during the first 10 years of its 35-year contract because of the coronavirus crisis. The request required approval from Brussels before transport minister Rosen Zhelyazkov can submit a report and relevant proposal to the Council of Ministers.
Fewer first jobbers - record low
The number of first-time jobbers decreased by 24.5% to 70,600 in 2020, according to the Financial Supervision Commission which monitors the choices of the newly employed in universal pension funds. The number of new entrants to the labor market hit a 14-year record low. However, it should be emphasized that even without the crisis, there had been fewer in recent years for demographic reasons.